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Speakers of the House

Two second-year students take home top debating prize

It is usually law students and PhD candidates who win the Canadian National Debating Championship, not undergrads. But in March, two second-year U of T students took the trophy home.

“We were the underdogs,” admits Adrienne Lipsey who with Richard Lizius trumped 63 debating teams (including eight from the Hart House Debating Club). The two, both 19 at the time, are believed to be the youngest debaters to win nationals.

Over the three-day tournament at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Lipsey, now 20, and Lizius debated a range of topics – such as whether those who practise witchcraft should be prosecuted, and whether journalists should be allowed to film court proceedings. After winning seven of their eight debates, the newcomers advanced to the final round. Pitted against a team from McGill, they argued that Quebec should be a nation within Canada – and were declared the winners.

Still being debated, though, is who the better debater is: Lipsey, a political science major who attends Victoria College, or Lizius, a mechanical engineering student. Lipsey takes the podium first, warming up the crowd with her casual, conversational style. “I try for a novel take, but sometimes it blows up in my face,” she says. “You can look like a bit of an idiot when that happens, but people forgive you for it.”

Then comes Lizius, a more formal speaker whose strength is reacting to opponents’ arguments.“ I’ve been showing a lot more emotion this term,” says Lizius, adding that their talents complement each other.

“He’s awesome on rebuttal,” says Lipsey. “And he has this totally charming English accent.”

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